The benefits of massage therapy have long been recognized by people with
Parkinson’s disease. Because Parkinson’s disease typically causes muscle
stiffness and rigidity, bodywork’s ability to alleviate joint and muscle
stiffness makes it a logical choice. As long as the client has sensation in the
area being worked on, it is safe for bodywork. Communicating with a client
throughout a bodywork session will ensure a positive experience. However, before
working with a Parkinson’s client, bodyworkers must understand the
Parkinson’s disease is a CNS dysfunction, and will not be completely
resolved with bodywork alone.
Work in cooperation with a client’s primary physician, as massage may impact
the need for antidepressants and other medication.
Since uncontrolled movement is characteristic of this disease, getting on
and off a massage table may pose safety issues. Bodyworkers must predict this
with Parkinson’s clients and either improvise or take extra cautionary measures
to ensure the client’s safety.
- Meridian has a barrier free massage room, bathroom, and a hydraulic table
without a wheel chair!
According to a 2002 study conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the
University of Miami, along with staff from the university’s neurology department
and Duke University’s pharmacology department, Parkinson’s disease symptoms are reduced by massage
therapy. In this study, the group of adults with Parkinson’s
disease who received two massages a week for five weeks experienced improved
daily functioning, increased quality of sleep and decreased stress-hormone
levels. The massage consisted of 15 minutes in the prone position, focusing on
the back, buttocks, ribs, thighs, calves and feet; and 15 minutes in the supine
position, focusing on the thighs, lower legs, feet, hands, forearms, upper arms,
neck, face and head. The study’s authors reported, “These findings suggest that
massage therapy enhances functioning in progressive or degenerative central
nervous system disorders or conditions.”
While several different massage modalities have been quantifiably researched
in the context of Parkinsonism, including Trager, Alexander Technique and Swedish
massage, all modalities report improvement in function, from
the reduction of rigidity and improvement of sleep, to the reduction of tremor
and increase of daily activity stamina.
Don’t be afraid of working with clients suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
The pathology of this condition and the success reported with massage therapy
make physical manipulation of the musculoskeletal system an ideal Parkinsonism
management component. Being familiar with this disease and welcoming those
affected can bring an enormous amount of satisfaction to any compassionate